WINTER GARDEN – In a championship game for the ages, the Vero Beach High School girl’s lacrosse team proved that they are without a doubt the best team in the state. Winning a hard fought battle 10-9 over a tough Lake Brantley team that gave the five-time champions all they could handle.
“It’s not what we had hoped for; the win is the win and we’ll definitely take it,” Vero Beach coach Shannon Dean said. “I think the girls are walking off the field as if they lost. It’s just the expectations that we have here. We set such high expectations that when it’s a close game like this it’s a different feeling. But we’ll take the win; it’s our fifth state championship.” The Fighting Indians’ fifth championship didn’t come without drama. After taking a 4-1 lead to start the game, Lake Brantley came storming back, making the ladies of Vero Beach work for every draw, assist and shot.Vero Beach expected a tough game from the ladies of Lake Brantley.
“They (Lake Brantley) are very well coached,” Dean said. “They’re well coached and they have the passion. Any team that comes out here with heart and passion is going doing some wonderful things. It’s evident by both games we played against them this year – 11-7 and 10-9 – they just wanted it bad; fortunately we were a little stronger.”Leading the way for the Fighting Indians was All-American midfielder Jennifer Leffew.
As she’s done her entire career, the senior made big plays for her team when they needed her most. The All-American scored two consecutive goals late in the second half to give her team the breathing room they needed to secure the victory.
The team would benefit greatly from Leffew’s scores as Lake Brantley would cut the lead to one, scoring four points in the last five minutes, setting up a cinematic finish to the game. But Leffew, Courtney Swan and Krista Grabher would not allow any upsets, making key defensive stops to win the game.
“Jen played amazing; she always does,” said midfielder Courtney Swan. “She does amazing stuff that I don’t know how she comes up with. Two of her goals were taken away, she should have had four. She’s great.”
Leffew led the late charge for Vero Beach, but Swan and Grabher – who showed tremendous heart playing on a seriously injured left ankle – and the rest of the Fighting Indians gave a scrappy effort.
“Keeping our heads in the game was big late in the game,” Leffew said. “I thought we had it, but I knew we needed to play our game and play smart like we usually do; I wasn’t too panicked, I believed in my teammates and knew we could do it.”
Vero Beach’s championship attitude was well on display during and after the game. The champions didn’t hesitate starting the conversation about the plan to win another championship.
“I’m sure we’ll break the film down on Monday,” Dean said. “Shortly after that we’ll start getting ready for next year.”